The concept of purpose is having a moment right now. From new RBS CEO Alison Rose announcing her plan to build a purpose-led bank to Danone CEO Emmanuel Faber publicly committing to a goal of getting the food multinational certified as a B Corp (a business that balances profit and purpose), you can’t move for business leaders pontificating on the value of purpose.
But far beyond being flavour of the month, it’s recognised that purpose is core to wellbeing, motivation and productivity. Our wellbeing is higher if we feel a meaningful connection to what we do, feeling that our day-to-day activity is serving a greater purpose, beyond ourselves and often beyond simply making profit.
Purpose and meaningful connection are part of the alignment that enables teams to create and experience ‘flow’ together. Flow is the optimum state of intrinsic motivation, in which people experience peak performance and greater wellbeing.
While many of us are lucky enough to find meaning through our work, the CIPD’s UK Work and Working Lives survey finds almost a quarter (24%) of UK workers do not feel like their work makes a useful contribution to society.
Finding meaning and purpose through work contributes to psychological wellbeing, with studies finding people with a stronger sense of purpose are happier and less likely to experience stress, anxiety and depression. It’s about feeling that we belong to something bigger than ourselves.
On a team level, having a common purpose helps us pull together to achieve our goals and focus on our outcomes and collective ambitions. Finding meaning at a group level through feeling our collective work is worthwhile, important and valuable, has positive links to performance.
Shaping a shared purpose in which we can all individually find meaning contributes to team flow, as does forging meaningful connections and conversations between individual team members. It helps to achieve what Csikszentmihalyi defines as “the melting together of action and consciousness”, feelings of unity and complete involvement.
Bringing purpose to life for teams
Far too many companies have values which are not connected to every day work or communicated beyond their initial launch. They may be referred to in strategies or even painted on the walls, but that doesn’t make them real.
Here are some tips on bringing purpose to life, helping your teams get into collective flow:
– Purpose needs to connect through to values, behaviours and processes. It should be embedded into all aspects of the employee life cycle, from recruitment to performance management to reward. The how and the why should be as important as the what.
– Ask people what their intrinsic motivators are: where do they draw their energy and what makes them feel alive at work? Share these regularly within teams to get a sense of individual drivers of collective purpose.
– Focus on facilitating meaningful team conversations. Too often, we either don’t find time for meaningful conversations at work or we focus on the negative. Support your teams to have focused, positive and energising conversations about meaning and purpose, as well as wellbeing, performance and strengths.
– Share feedback regularly. Celebrate when someone has acted in accordance with organisation purpose and values. Share feedback from customers and clients that relates to core purpose.